Monday, June 18, 2012

Review- The Smashing Pumpkins/ Oceania

The Smashing Pumpkins/ Oceania (Martha's Music, 2012)
If this were a Rolling Stone magazine review, this would be the sentence where I state how this is their best work since ___________ (most commercially/critically acclaimed album, in this band's case Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness). That is the cop-out statement that RS always uses to absolve themselves for failing to acknowledge the work of an artist after they choose to not shine a spotlight on them anymore. Since this is not a RS review, I can freely state that this is indeed a great album, but you know what? Every Pumpkins/Zwan/Corgan album between MCIS and now have had their moments, with plenty of great songs over the years. 2008s American Gothic EP was the return to form that the masses failed to notice.
Oceania is part of the Teargarden By Kaleidyscope era which started off as free downloads on the band's site in late 2009. There were two EPs released in 2010, Teargarden By Kaleidyscope Vol. 1: Songs For A Sailor and Teargarden By Kaleidyscope Vol. 2: The Solstice Bare. Both of those had some great material on them. In the summer of 2010 Corgan toured with a brand new line-up consisting of Guitarist Jeff Schroeder (the sole remaining member of the 2007-2008 touring band), Bassist Nicole Fiorentino, and Drummer Mike Byrne. I was so blown away by the Grand Rapids, MI show in July of 2010. I knew that I had witnessed the rebirth of this band. They toured the US again in the fall of 2011, right after completing this album, and this cemented my belief that this is the definitive line up of the band. I have been a fan since 1993 but have no nostalgic longing to see that incarnation again.
Moving forward to the present and future, we have Oceania. Billy has been acquiring vintage organs and synthesizers over the last several years, and employs them all over this album. The fashionable thing to say, or what Rolling Stone will likely say, is that this is the album that should've followed Siamese Dream, to which I would say nonsense. These songs are clearly psychedelic, and the band is rocking the dynamics something fierce again, but there are moments that are as indebted to the Machina and post-Pumpkins eras as the ones that channel Gish and SD. There are the occasional electronic flourish and prog-rock tendencies, such as the albums' title track. It is my favorite on the album, and hits every Pumpkins sweet spot. Pinwheels and Pale Horse are also among the highlights of an album of highlights.
Billy Corgan also uses many of the vocal effects and layering that were so prevalent on the early albums. Nicole Fiorentino handles the high pitched backing vocals, and the results are nothing short of stellar. The Celestials is another interesting song, with plenty of dynamics. The Chimera and Quasar are among the more rocking moments on the album. Several of these songs are familiar to those of us who saw the band last fall. My Love Is Winter is one that I remember from that show. This may be the first album by the band that the world at large has paid attention to since the Clinton administration, but to us diehards it's just another great addition to Corgan and company's body of work. I can't wait to see what's coming next.
The OCD zone- The packaging on the CD is a tri-fold digipak with an actual plastic hub. The booklet has lyrics and there are plenty of cryptic, symbolic images that I will stare at long enough to piece together with the rest of the Teargarden puzzle.

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2 comments:

  1. I went to Amazon to take a listen to the tracks and I like what I hear so far. For $8.99 I think I will bite.

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    1. Do you buy ANYTHING from a real store? ;)

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